Iconic women in sports bemoan lack of national recognition

Former National Sprinter Heather Samuel holding the Queen's Baton (photo courtesy flickr)
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By Neto Baptiste

Female athletes who would have excelled in their respective disciplines while representing the twin-island state of Antigua and Barbuda, are not given the recognition accorded to their male counterparts.

This is the belief of at least two female sporting icons here, in former national netballer, Yvonne Williams Willis and former sprinter Heather Samuel Daley, who both agreed that when many of the country’s top accolades in sports are being awarded, they are usually given to male athletes who would have excelled at some of the same games and events attended and dominated by their female equivalents.

A youthful Heather Samuel Daley getting ready for action.

Willis, who was the number two ranked goal-shoot behind Jean Pierre at the 1979 World Championships in Trinidad, said more must be done to make the achievements of females in sports more visible.

“We have sports facilities around and we have ads on some of the walls … maybe the government could look into this or maybe some individuals who are upcoming artists could get pictures of us and not only Vivi [Sir Viv Richards] and Sir Andy Roberts but the ladies because there is nothing about the ladies around. I am hoping now that when YASCO is finished, that Heather [Samuel-Daley], as Director of Sports, that would be a nice place to start to put even yourself and even some of us because my first [sport] was track and field,” she said.

Yvonne Williams Willis

Willis’ observations were supported by Daley, who named a number of athletes who have made their mark from a sporting standpoint.

“Yvonne Willis, myself, Karen Joseph, there is Shenneth Samuel, there are so many of us. There was Agatha Dublin who was very good in athletics, Ruperta Charles, Joycelin Joseph so there are lots of us but the accolades are always given to the males,” the former sprinter said.
Daley, also Antigua and Barbuda’s Director of Sports, is one of the country’s most decorated athletes across both the male and female categories. She has won a total of 210 medals which include regional and collegiate competitions. She is also a three-time Sportswoman of the Year.

Meanwhile, although not disagreeing that there is a need a need for more recognition at a national level, former bodybuilder, Beverly Percival Tonge, heralded those in her discipline for always being willing to recognise the achievements of females at the association level.

Beverly Percival Tonge competes

“Bodybuilding for us, we compete maybe twice or maybe three times per year and yes, it may be a male dominated sport, but here in Antigua, I think females got the recognition just as much as the males.

Somebody may be saying I am wrong but from James Daley, Errol Williams’ time come down and now we have Kimberly Ephraim Percival, Rosian Warrington and so I think the females are more dominating in the bodybuilding arena,” he said.

Tonge is also a former Sportswoman of the Year and would have dominated women’s bodybuilding here for several years before her retirement in 2015.

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